EE will still have a window of 4G exclusivity to establish market leadership
The progress that Ofcom has made in the timetable for clearing the new 4G spectrum is good news for Vodafone and O2 because it means that EE’s period of LTE exclusivity will be cut from a year or more to only 6-8 months. However, this is still an important window of opportunity for EE to capture significant market share from high-end mobile users. The situation is similar, in many ways, to the periods of exclusivity granted to operators when the iPhone first launched. O2 managed to cement itself as the leading UK operator during this period and associate itself with an aspirational product like the iPhone. EE is going to launch a major national advertising campaign in the coming weeks and the combination of an attractive new brand, faster speeds and the iPhone 5 (which will operate on the 4G network) is going to be a pretty compelling proposition. O2 and Vodafone are going to have to think really hard about how to freshen up their brands.
For the UK as a whole the faster 4G timetable rescues it from the embarrassment of being seen as a communications services backwater. A lot has been made of the faster speeds that 4G will offer on smartphones but we should not forget that the biggest benefits will accrue to those people who have poor home broadband connectivity. When 4G reaches these people – most likely in 2014 or 2015 – it will provide a significant boost to local communities and economies.